Unfortunately, sketchy call centers with terrible business practices have made the word “telefundraising” or “telemarketing” a dirty word over the years.
Fortunately, there are many call center agencies that follow the rules, and do a lot of great things in the nonprofit world!
Whether or not you’re considering the use of an outsourced call center, this article discusses some of the initial fears a nonprofit might have during the decision-making process.
1. “My donors won’t like receiving phone calls!”
That is true. Some donors just don’t like being called, but the truth is many donors actually prefer speaking with a live person because of the personal touch it provides. In fact, when “tele-responsive donors” are segmented and contacted on subsequent phone campaigns, they produce very strong ROI’s (2.0-3.0 avg.)! Read a case study where one of our clients experienced this ROI! Strategically integrating a telephone campaign into your marketing mix can also have a positive impact on LTV. With that said, it’s always a good practice to cautiously test a new strategy to fully understand its impact.
When selecting a call center, it’s important they have established QA practices in place that ensure a great donor experience. They should follow all applicable telemarketing laws and regulations, and house an internal “do not call list.” It’s also important that they are able to strategically flag donors who are responsive to phone calls, and those who are not. This will allow you to tailor future fundraising strategies based on donor preferences, ultimately improving your return on investment.
Lastly, work with a call center who offers full transparency into their operation. This will allow you to hear how donors are responding to the phone calls and give you peace of mind they are being treated with the utmost respect. For example, at Donor Care Center, our doors are always open to our client partners, and we offer them web-based portal access. This allows them the ability to directly log into our system and gain full visibility into their program 24 hours a day! And, the platform is mobile-friendly for busy on-the-go needs!
2. “I don’t have a need for a call center”
Sometimes call center outsourcing is not a good fit, but a good call center partner will work hard to understand your goals, provide the facts, and help you decide whether or not telefundraising is in your best interest. The question nonprofits should ask is not necessarily “Do I need a call center,” but “What fundraising challenges am I currently facing?” Oftentimes, a call center can help you overcome those challenges. Some challenges a call center might be able to help with are:
- Inbound Coverage: Would partnering with a call center that offers 24x7x365 inbound support be beneficial? Do you need “overflow” support during the busy holiday months or during high spikes periods resulting from DRTV, radiothons, telethons, or direct response initiatives?
- Attrition/Housefile Shrinkage: Is your Housefile growing or shrinking? What are you doing with lapsed donors who are not converting through traditional direct mail and online channels? Call centers like Donor Care Center, can offer nonprofits a Breakeven Guarantee (1:1 ROI) allowing you to reactivate lapsed donors at virtually no cost.
- Improving Direct Mail Fulfillment: No, that’s not a typo. A call center can actually help improve direct mail fulfillment. One example is by transmitting a soft, pre-recorded thank you voice broadcast prior to a mail piece arriving in-home. It’s an inexpensive strategy and can improve fulfillment rates on average from 5-10%! Why not try an A/B test on your next campaign? Read about the impressive results in this Thank You Voice Broadcast Case Study.
- Growing Monthly Donors: Growing monthly donors should be a strategy every nonprofit utilizes as they provide steady, reliable income every month. Selecting an audience that is receptive to monthly giving is one of the most important tasks when setting up a telefundraising campaign. Even if you have a strong appeal, conversion rates can be suppressed due to calling the wrong audience. Therefore, it’s critical to work with a call center who can analyze your file and identify donors with the highest likelihood to convert on a monthly conversion campaign (e.g. tele-responsive donors, prior credit card donors, 0-12 month donors, multi-donors, etc.). Our Monthly Sustainer Case Study illustrates how this can directly impact your organization.
- Split-Testing An Existing Call Center: You have an internal call center or you’re currently partnering with another outsourced call center. How do you know you’re getting the best value and results? It’s a good practice to periodically split-test your existing vendor (and a little friendly competition never hurts!). Not only will this allow you to benchmark call performance, but you’ll be able to evaluate different technologies, client services, all-in costs, and a number of other important factors. For example, even a $0.25 per call cost reduction could add tens of thousands of dollars into your net income.
3. “I don’t have the budget” / “Telefundraising is too expensive!”
Telefundraising can be expensive, but remember, you’re using live agents to build rapport with your donors… and the reality is, it costs a lot of money for a call center to pay agent wages that attract talent, insurance, benefits, overhead, incentives, etc. Make sure to quote out multiple call centers to ensure you’re getting a competitive rate (without any sacrifice to quality or service). There are also guarantees in place that can limit your financial risks and make telefundraising very cost effective. As mentioned earlier, a “Breakeven Guarantee” on lapsed donor campaigns can convert donors who have become unresponsive to other fundraising initiatives. What other channels consistently produce a minimum 1:1 ROI from lapsed donors? This not only makes these campaigns cost effective, but allows you to grow your Housefile by reactivating donors at virtually no cost!
There are many, many reasons a telefundraising campaign may not have worked in the past, but it doesn’t mean that will always be the case. How many times did Thomas Edison fail before he invented the light bulb? Lack of quality assurance, poor segmentation of a file, incorrect ask arrays, a weak appeal, pledge letters not dropping in a timely fashion, inexperienced management, inadequate agent training, etc., can all result in poor telefundraising performance from your call center partner. The planning behind the campaign is just as important as making the phone calls. If a call center simply loads a file to a dialer and calls it, but never plans the calling strategy around your goals, it will fail before it ever starts.
That is why it’s critical to partner with a call center that not only takes the time to understand your goals and needs, but who has industry best practices in place, along with team members who understand all of the beautiful nuances of telefundraising. Remember, telefundraising is never about making the most calls. It’s about strengthening your relationship with your donors to improve their lifetime value. Sometimes it’s just as important to identify the pockets of donors who should not be called over the phone, as it is identifying the pockets of donors that should be called.
5. “Donors will call in and complain”
They may, depending on how the call went. Quite frankly, telefundraising is more intrusive than mail, and complaints can happen even if the agent did everything right in the phone call. In those instances, it’s important to flag them appropriately so they do not receive future calls.
Many call centers have processes in place that improve the likelihood of an exceptional donor experience. For example limiting the number of times a donor can be attempted over the phone, having appropriate FAQ’s and rebuttals for the agents to use, or simply having an effective quality assurance process in place that ensures the donor has a good phone call.
Our experience has shown that donors generally call back for two reasons:
- They saw the number on their caller ID and were curious. This can easily be addressed so your Donor Relations Department isn’t blindsided by the calls. For example, when that happens at Donor Care Center, the donor is immediately routed right back to one of the agents on your campaign allowing them the opportunity to speak with someone knowledgeable about your organization and the prior phone call they received.
- Verifying the legitimacy of the call. This is especially true if your donors have never been contacted over the phone before or if they are very far lapsed. This is also perfectly normal and does not mean the donor had a bad experience.
Remember, just because a donor called back in doesn’t mean they are opposed to receiving future calls. And, if they are a lapsed donor who you haven’t heard from in years, calling back in can be a very positive outcome as it gives the call center an opportunity to personally thank them for their past support and update them on what’s going on with your organization.
6. “I don’t feel comfortable with a call center handling my donors information”
With all of the data breaches we hear about in the news these days, it’s hard to imagine that any business is immune to a data breach. Donor Care Center (and many other call centers) recognize how critical this is to you. Data security is taken very seriously, and we’ve invested millions of dollars in facility and network improvements, upgrades, and maintenance to our servers. We take full responsibility for our efforts in maintaining not just your donor’s personal data (e.g. credit card information), but any information captured in the phone call. Our network, systems and facilities are SOC 2 audited (annually) by a third party and we use controls based on a variety of standards including HIPAA, PCI and NIST 800-53 rules and guidelines.
7. “I’m happy with the results of my other fundraising channels”
That’s a great thing and means your development team is doing something very special! Keep in mind, call center services are generally not meant to replace other fundraising initiatives, but simply to “enhance” them. For example:
- What are you doing with the lapsed donors who are not converting through your non-telefundraising channels? Why not test the telephone under a Breakeven Guarantee?
- What strategies do you have in place for donors who prefer being contacted by phone?
- Have you tested a soft “thank you” voice broadcast in front of a direct mail piece or telemarketing pledge letter to increase open rates/fulfillment?
As you can see, there are many call center services that can enhance your existing strategies. The beauty of telefundraising is that you get “instant feedback” on performance and can refine the program in real-time.
Can outsourced telefundraising be an effective strategy for nonprofits? Absolutely! While there are many variables to consider when selecting a call center partner, it’s important to weigh all of the pros and cons of each. Select a partner with experience, great references, transparency, and integrity, because at the end of the day (or phone call) your donors deserve that!
We’d love to hear your comments and feedback. Let us know if you have any other telefundraising fears we can answer in upcoming articles. We can be reached at 1-800-398-GIVE (4483) or firstname.lastname@example.org